It simply goes about its business of being a spacious supermini, yet sales in the UK have consistently been in the mid-30,000s for the past couple of years.
In fact, the Yaris is so successful that it accounts for one in every four new Toyotas sold in Europe.
And now, fresh for 2006, is a new model, with larger dimensions, more interior space and revised styling.
In common with the industry trend, Toyota has applied ‘big car thinking’ to its second smallest car, reacting to customer demand for more spacious interiors and features which you would normally only find on cars from a class above. This applies equally to the new Renault Clio and Fiat’s Grande Punto – and no doubt the forthcoming new Vauxhall Corsa will also follow this philosophy.
Toyota expects to sell 38,000 new Yaris models in the UK in 2006, an improvement over the previous best sales performance in 2004 when 35,226 cars were sold.
Paul Philpott, Toyota GB’s commercial director, said: ‘We have been growing our share of the supermini sector every year since the original Yaris was introduced in 1999.
‘We expect 38,000 sales in 2006 and beyond that we will grow to 40,000-plus sales in the coming years.’
The new Yaris is primarily expected to be a retail car, although Toyota reckons a fifth of those 38,000 units will go into fleets. Demand will come mainly from NHS, public sector and Government bodies, although the firm believes there is some scope to capitalise on the downsizing trend among some of its core fleet customers.
What there won’t be is much in the way of rental business or bodyshop courtesy car fleets, primarily because the lower-priced Aygo caters for this sector, where rock bottom costs are the key.
But pricing is still a consideration for the Yaris. Prices have risen on all models, so while the £8,995 entry price point is reasonable, the higher grade versions costing upwards of £11,000 begin to look expensive.
And a top-of-the-range Yaris with all the bells and whistles is nudging into lower-medium territory with a price tag of more than £13,000. On sale from January 1, the Yaris is available with three engines – 1.0 and 1.3-litre VVT-i petrols and the familiar 1.4-litre D-4D diesel. Both the 1.3 and 1.4 are also available with the option of the MultiMode semi-automatic gearbox for £500 extra. Specification levels are T2, T3 and T Spirit, with no plans for a sports version, or a Yaris Verso model, as yet.
Standard equipment on all models includes driver and passenger airbags, tilt-adjustable steering wheel, remote control central locking, electrically-adjustable door mirrors and a CD stereo.
Higher-spec T3 and T Spirit models gain big car features such as climate control, keyless entry and ignition, alloys and a first-in-class driver’s knee airbag.
Behind the wheel
SETTLE in behind the steering wheel of the new Yaris for the first time and it is clear that Toyota’s claims of more interior room are no idle boast.
For a supermini, the Yaris is exceptionally roomy inside, with a wide, tall cabin easily able to accommodate four adults. The boot isn’t huge, although the rear seats both slide and recline to increase either luggage space or rear legroom.
The rear seats also feature an ‘Easy Flat’ system which either create a flat load floor with the seat backs folded, or the squabs can be lifted up to put larger items in the space behind the front seats. With a flat floor – there’s no transmission tunnel thanks to clever underfloor packaging – items such as flat-pack furniture can be stowed easily.
There is plenty of storage space with a second glovebox situated behind the steering wheel (the instrument binnacle is in the middle of the dashboard and the digital display is angled towards the driver) and deep recesses on either side of the centre console.
Two models were available to test – the 1.0-litre with manual gearbox and the diesel with the MultiMode semi-auto gearbox.
The 1.0-litre is no ball of fire, although it’s peppy enough to cope with urban driving. The five-speed manual transmission is light and easy to use, while the steering is geared with plenty of assistance to make tight manoeuvres a doddle.
The diesel has much more power, especially in the mid-range, although it was hard to assess its true nature as the MultiMode gearbox isn’t one of the better semi-autos thanks to ponderous shifts and the feeling that it is strangling the engine.
Both models also roll quite a bit during cornering and make anything other than slow speed driving a chore.
THE Yaris performs well in an urban environment thanks to its manoeuvrability and ease of use, but out of this habitat it isn’t as good to drive as some of its supermini rivals.
|Model:||1.0 VVT-i||1.3 VVT-i||1.4 D-4D|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||68/6,000||86/6,000||89/3,600|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||69/3,600||89/4,200||140/1,800|
|Max speed (mph):||96||106||109|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||52.3||47.1||62.8|
|CO2 emissions (g/km):||127||141||119|
|On sale:||January 1|